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Another DC Principal Is Out: Ross Elementary

Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee continues to shake up the ranks of DCPS principals. Ross Elementary Principal Sandra Gonzalez told parents in an e-mail yesterday that she has been replaced by Amanda Alexander, currently the principal at Bunker Hill Elementary.

Earlier this month school officials announced the firing of 24 principals, including 13 who headed schools deemed to be failing under the federal "No Child Left Behind Act."

Gonzalez, a former teacher at Oyster Bililngual Elementary, was an interim principal, and some parents heavily lobbied Rhee and DC Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) to have her retained permanently.

Alexander will be Ross' third leader in three years. Gonzalez followed Ximena Hartsock, who joined Rhee's executive staff last year after replacing longtime principal Gloria Smith, who retired in 2006. (Disclosure: A number of Post reporters and editors read to Ross students as part of the Everybody Wins!, a nonprofit that promotes children's literacy)

PTA president Rich Hancuff said the community was looking for continuity after all the changes.

"I think a majority of parents at the school were looking for stability and leadership," he said.

He added that Gonzalez seemed to many parents like the ideal choice to launch the school's foreign language program this fall, which will involve some students taking one of their classes in Spanish.

Hancuff said that the school had received signals from administrators that Gonzalez might not have to formally apply for the permanent position, which requires competing with other candidates before a selection panel comprised of school officials and community members. He said a decision on whether she would "panel" was supposed to have been made in February. But it was not until late April that parents learned Gonzalez would have to compete for the job.

"I'm frustrated with Chancellor Rhee about the lack of communication and meaningful communication," Hancuff said.

The panel met May 17, but Gonzalez was not its first choice. She did not return a phone message today, and it is not clear whether she will apply for other principal's jobs in the system. Rhee has repeatedly declined to discuss individual decisions involving teachers, but has said that student achievement, attendance and community satisfaction are all factors in her decision-making.

Alexander is a graduate of the New Leaders for New Schools, a national principals training program program, a nonprofit that recuits and trains new principals to raise the performance of urban schools. More than 55 graduates from the D.C. program work as principals in D.C. public or public charter schools.

By Bill Turque  |  May 28, 2008; 4:50 PM ET
Categories:  Education  
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Is/Was Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee ever truly qualified for this job?

Posted by: Jonathan Rees | May 28, 2008 5:36 PM | Report abuse

You can't have it both ways. A sensible, careful, step-by-step approach is definitely _not_ what the catastrophic morass called DCPS is in need of. We elected Fenty to fix the schools; he selected Michelle Rhee to execute her plan, and I use that word 'execute' intentionally. You cannot slay a dragon without cutting off some of its limbs. Meanwhile, children are not being taught _anything_. So let the lady do her job, and quit buzzing around like a bunch of 'Nats' because she has the power and you want it.

Posted by: HarpoDC | May 28, 2008 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Appreciate the approval to dragon-slay all of DCPS. Keep in mind many active supporters of DCPS schools that are doing fine and will only get better w/some reform always assumed Rhee would support replicating "models that work". Dragon slaying just for sport is a waste of precious time and resources where so many students are failing. Ross is not a school in need of such extra-special slaying attention.

Posted by: Maureen | May 28, 2008 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Ross ES should have concerns because Ms. Alexander ran Bunker Hill like a dictator. She chased away good teachers and students. The kindergarten class had 3 teachers this year. The first one quit one month into the school year. Three nurses quit. The pre-k class had no aide and was overpopulated. Even as she prepares to depart Bunker Hill she has tried on two occasions, at two different schools, to get principals to rescind their offers to hire teachers who have been excessed. She is vindictive and they should be concerned about the leadership APPOINTED to their building.

Posted by: lovejoy | June 9, 2008 7:49 PM | Report abuse

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